Postcard (for Sari)

August 31st, 2017

She had liked to receive mail since she was a kid. Each time she noticed that the red flag on her mailbox was up, she felt a little rush. The flag meant that someone had thought of her: be it an old friend, an ad agency or the tax office. In other words, it was the universe acknowledging her existence.

That Wednesday afternoon, the universe didn’t seem particularly eager to bless her with its attention. She was sitting in the kitchen with a cup of coffee, contemplating neurotransmitters and drawing squiggles on the cover of Nature. She glanced out of the window and, annoyingly, the world was still out there. She couldn’t delay the chapter deadline on account of an imminent apocalypse, and the book was stubbornly refusing to write itself.

She sighed, stood up and was about to go to the study when something caught her eye: the mailbox at the end of the driveway. And a little red flag above the mailbox. She smiled, anticipating five or even ten sweet minutes of procrastination. She tossed the journal into the trash bin and went outside.

As she was slowly walking down the driveway, she felt the warm August wind on her face, and all thoughts of chemical compounds vacated her brain.

She pulled the flag down, opened the mailbox and…found nothing inside.


Some kids must have decided to play a funny joke on the lonely science lady.

Disappointed, she started walking up the driveway. She had almost reached the front door when she heard a metallic squeaking sound. As if something had turned on an old hinge. She looked back and, sure enough, the flag was up again.

She rechecked the mailbox, and again it was completely empty. She examined the flag’s hinge and could see no way how it would’ve done what it did. The thoughts of neurotransmitters came back but got more personal: maybe she was finally going crazy.

Angrily, she pulled the flag down and rushed back to the house.

This time she turned around several times to make sure that no one was there. The flag consistently stayed down. She closed the door, braced herself, and entered the study.

The laptop welcomed her with a resentful white glow of an empty page. She sat down and managed to write a few sentences before getting distracted by a familiar insistent buzz. She usually put her phone on airplane mode when she had to get work done, but forgot to do it that afternoon.

It was a text message: “You know that the rest of us stopped using snail mail two decades ago, right?”

At first, the meaning of the text failed to register. She reread it and felt the blood rushing to her cheeks.

She slammed the laptop shut and ran to the front door.

He was standing in the front yard, his blue duffle bag on the ground, a warm smile on his face.

“I hope you didn’t expect a postcard.”

She smiled too. Perhaps the deadline could be pushed back after all.

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